from the just-a-tad-outside-the-habitable-zone dept.
Here's your friendly reminder that our solar system is but a molecule of water in the universe's ocean.
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey, better known as TESS, has spotted a buzzing galactic neighborhood only 33 light-years away from our planet. It has a central star, a couple of planets circling that star, and according to the scientists behind this alternate reality discovery, there are at least two terrestrial, Earth-size worlds in the pack.
[...] What we know so far is that the system's host star is dubbed HD 260655 and is relatively small, cool and categorized as an M-dwarf. M-dwarves are significantly less massive than our sun, a G-type main sequence star, yet are 10 times as numerous throughout the universe.
[...] The inner planet orbits its star every 2.8 Earth days and is about 1.2 times the size of Earth and twice as massive. The other foreign world orbits every 5.7 Earth days and is 1.5 times the size of Earth and three times as massive. They're both considered "rocky."
"Both planets in this system are each considered among the best targets for atmospheric study because of the brightness of their star," Michelle Kunimoto of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and one of the discovery's lead scientists, said in a statement.
That includes studies that aim to answer questions like, "Is there a volatile-rich atmosphere around these planets? And are there signs of water or carbon-based species?" Kunimoto said -- in other words, a protective layer like the Earth's ozone layer, and living beings like ... humans. "These planets are fantastic test beds for those explorations."
OK, but before you get too excited, the team emphasized that the newly unveiled rocky worlds of interest probably aren't habitable -- they tread really (really) close to their host star, so they're likely too hot to host water. The inner planet, per the study, roasts at an estimated 818 degrees Fahrenheit, and the other runs a balmy temperature of 548 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We consider that range outside the habitable zone," Kunimoto said.
Still, these worlds could prove invaluable for the overall quest to find habitable exoplanets. In short, they could inform how scientists conduct future studies that might come across planets which are in a habitable zone.
"But there might be more planets in the system," Shporer added. "There are many multiplanet systems hosting five or six planets, especially around small stars like this one. Hopefully we will find more." And if the team does find more, "maybe one might be in the habitable zone.
"That's optimistic thinking."